The Indiana Attorney General believes federal legislation designed to help stop the spread of non-native Asian carp is a move in the right direction. Greg Zoeller says he hopes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will “follow through vigorously” to offer grant money to states like Indiana that are affected by the invasive species. May 23, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A bill Congress passed this week would help provide federal assistance to states in their efforts to stop the spread of invasive Asian carp in rivers and streams. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who has asked the federal government to do more to assist states such as Indiana in eradicating the non-native fish species, expressed his appreciation to members of Congress for passing the bill that could provide federal grant funds to states to fund Asian carp-control efforts.
The conference committee report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) passed Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 412-4, and passed Thursday in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 91-7, and now moves to the President's desk for his signature. Among the bill's many provisions: It authorizes a federal report regarding invasive aquatic species and a multi-agency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basis and tributaries, including support to state and local governments. Also, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have the authority to determine how to provide such assistance, whether through offering grant funds to states or through in-kind assistance. The WRRDA contains $40 million in funding for invasive species control measures.
As lawyer for state government, Zoeller previously voiced concern that options identified by a recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study report to prevent the northward spread of Asian carp from the Chicago waterways and shipping canal into the Great Lakes were too limiting, and overlooked Indiana's waterways where the carp already have invaded, such as the Wabash River. Zoeller attended the Army Corps' public comment meetings on its study report options Jan. 9 in Chicago and Feb. 11 in Portage, Ind. He had proposed that in addition to the eight options the Corps identified to control carp, that Congress consider a ninth option: Use some of the funding already enacted or eventually approved to establish grants for the Great Lakes states to undertake programs to determine how to push the highly mobile Asian carp back downstream to be potentially contained or removed. One idea is to encourage agricultural demand for processed carp so their numbers could be reduced through commercial fishing.
“From firsthand observation I have seen how the Asian carp have negatively impacted the use and enjoyment of the Wabash River, and we need to intensify efforts to contain these invasive species before they do more damage to the sensitive river ecosystem. Indiana did not cause the carp infestation and should not bear the full brunt of the cost. I appreciate how Congress in a bipartisan way has listened to these concerns and responded to the need by authorizing federal efforts to assist states in carp control, and I encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to follow through vigorously and use its authority to offer grant support to states,” Zoeller said.
Two species of the non-native Asian carp have infested the Mississippi River basin since escaping from fish hatcheries in the South in the 1970s, spreading upstream toward the Great Lakes. By consuming nutrients in the water, the voracious Asian carp crowd out native fish for space and resources. The bighead carp can grow to four feet long and 90 pounds, while the silver carp swarm and jump out of the water in large numbers at the sound of boat motors and can injure passing boaters and water skiers.
Having filed an amicus brief on behalf of Indiana in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 regarding an Asian carp-control dispute in the Great Lakes, Zoeller since then has sought to raise public awareness of the environmental issue. Zoeller commended the efforts of Indiana native John Goss, director of the federal government's Asian Carp Coordinating Committee, part of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In mid-July 2013, Zoeller toured part of the length of the Wabash River by speedboat – accompanied on the first leg of the trip by Goss – and encountered populations of Asian carp at two locations. During that tour and inspection, the Attorney General and Director Goss met with local elected officials and conservation groups concerned about the long-term economic impact to their communities if the invasive fish continue to disrupt the river ecosystem.
On June 4, Attorney General Zoeller will chair a panel discussion with other state AGs on Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species during the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG) annual conference in Michigan.
Source: The Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller